Ovarian/Fallopian Tube Cancer

St. James’s Hospital (SJH) Gynaecological Cancer Care Centre is the largest provider in the Republic of Ireland of treatment for malignancy of the reproductive organs: cancer of the womb (uterus), cervix, ovary, vagina and vulva.  Our centre provides a regional and national service and is accredited by the NCCP (the HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme) for complex radical gynaecological surgeries. International standards of treatment apply, and the service is supported by research and teaching activities through Trinity College Dublin and the Cancer Trials Research Office at SJH.

Over 300 women with gynaecological cancer are referred to the centre annually. Cancer of the endometrium (lining of the womb) is the most common cancer, followed by cancer of the ovary/fallopian tube, then cervical cancer. Cancers of the vulva and vagina are less common. Women are referred by their general practitioners or by gynaecologists at their local hospital. A Multi-Disciplinary Team of doctors plans and provides the cancer care, and surgery is performed at SJH. Some of the treatments such as chemotherapy can be given in other local regional hospitals. Radiotherapy treatment is given at St Luke’s Hospital (SJH and in Rathgar, Dublin). When treatment is completed, long-term follow-up care is often provided at the patient’s local hospital.  Follow-up visits may go on for five years or longer.

What is Ovarian/Fallopian Tube Cancer?

The ovaries are two small, oval-shaped organs in the pelvis (the area between the hips in the lower part of the tummy). The fallopian tube, which is about 10 cm long, connects the womb to the ovary. About 1 in every 70 women develops ovarian cancer during her lifetime. The causes of ovarian cancer are not yet completely understood. The risk of developing ovarian cancer is very low in young women and increases as women get older. More than 8 out of 10 (80%) ovarian cancers occur in women over the age of 50. There are different types of ovarian cancer, but the most common is Serous Carcinoma. 

Treatment depends on the type of cancer diagnosed. As the ovary shares the same lining with other abdominal organs, it is not uncommon for the cancer to spread from the ovary to other abdominal organs.

Ovary cancer is usually asymptomatic, and patients often go to their GP with non-specific symptoms. An abnormal pelvic ultrasound and a positive blood test (known as CA 125) will increase the suspicion of ovary cancer. The diagnosis is made only after taking a sample/biopsy from the tumour.